CARACAS, Venezuela — “Experience and achievement have shown us that socialism is viable and economically effective at solving social problems,” Tran Doc Loi, a member of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union’s international department, told the World at a forum here titled “Vietnam: 60 Years of National Independence and Socialism.”

Tran, a member of the Vietnamese delegation to the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students, spoke with the World about many topics, including Vietnam’s fight for liberation, internal development, the socialist-oriented market economy and the impact of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the 30th anniversary of its victory over U.S. imperialism in the southern part of the country. Despite these historic gains, Tran said, “the legacy of the war has made development very difficult.”

Three million Vietnamese were killed during the war and 4 million were injured. Forty-five million liters of Agent Orange were used in Vietnam, causing an estimated 2-4 million victims, people who have suffered birth defects, chloracne, Hodgkin’s disease, cancers, spina bifida, and soft tissue sarcoma as a result of the illegal use of chemical weapons. Many Vietnamese also die as a result of undetonated landmines every year.

“Vietnam is still in the initial stages of building socialism,” said Tran. “There are a lot of challenges to overcome politically, economically, culturally and socially. Socialist development can be economically and politically better. But we are working to combine our national interests with the objective international situation.”

In the past 60 years Vietnam has gone through two stages of development, said Tran. The first was the liberation from colonialism and imperialist aggression. The second is the construction of socialism. “At this stage we are working to improve the life of the people, expand education, health care and life expectancy,” said Tran. “We are struggling to unite the people for the building of socialism.”

Tran said Vietnam is utilizing a socialist-oriented market economy to “improve economic efficiency” as a way to “improve the people’s living conditions.”

“Pure market economic development is unable to carry with it social development,” he said. “The market must be under state management to ensure healthy development of the economy, thus facilitating social advancement.”

According to Tran, Vietnam’s gross domestic product has increased at about 7 percent per year in recent years. Food production has increased from 17.5 million tons in 1987 to 39 million tons in 2004. The industrial share of the GDP has increased from 29 percent in 1986 to 40 percent in 2003. And about 25 percent of the national budget has been earmarked for social programs. “The focus of the government is to assist the poor and disadvantaged of society,” said Tran.

When asked about the changes taking place within Venezuelan society, Tran said, “We are excited to learn about the Bolivarian Revolution. The Venezuelan government is trying to provide education and expand health care. They are enabling the people to participate in the political and economic life of the country.

“The nature of the revolutionary process is very similar and the people of Vietnam and the people of Venezuela share a common objective,” Tran added. “What is happening in Venezuela is part of a new way, a new possibility of bringing a revolution that will lead to socialism. This is very significant for all progressive forces of the world.”